Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today released the following statement in celebration of Filipino American Heritage Month:
Mabuhay! I am pleased to join you in recognizing October as Filipino American Heritage Month. The Filipino American community has a rich and storied culture that has greatly contributed to the success and prosperity of our country. The celebration of Filipino American Heritage Month acknowledges the numerous achievements of Filipino Americans.
It is an honor to represent the 12th Congressional District, home to one of the largest Filipino American communities in the Country. The Filipino community has contributed greatly to the success and prosperity of our region - from Filipino veterans who have served our country admirably in every war since World War II, to the thousands of successful business owners, nurses, educators, laborers and public officials of Filipino descent - words alone cannot express my gratitude and respect for the Filipino community.
South San Francisco resident Alice Bulos, the grandmother of Filipino-American politics, has worked tirelessly to encourage the participation of minorities in the political process and has led the effort to empower Filipinos and other Asian-Americans in their personal and professional lives. Tita Alice has served on numerous local and national advisory committees like San Mateo County's Commission on the Status of Women and as President Bill Clinton's appointee to the Federal Council on Aging.
I am thrilled that the 12th Congressional District is home to the Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center where comprehensive services like Tagalog classes, folk dancing, health and legal clinics are offered. Perla Ibarrientos has been one of the biggest advocates for PBRC and is a true gem in the community.
While today is a cause for celebration as we recognize the achievements of Filipino Americans, it is also a time of reflection. During World War II, about 250,000 Filipinos volunteered to fight alongside U.S. troops. As citizens of a commonwealth of the United States before and during the war, Filipinos were legally American nationals. With American nationality, they were promised all the benefits afforded to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. But in 1946, Congress stripped many Filipinos of the benefits that had been promised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
A promise made, should be a promise kept. I have introduced the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 (HR 210) that would make Filipino veterans fully eligible for benefits similar to those received by all U.S. veterans. It eliminates the distinction between the Regular or "Old" Philippine Scouts and the other three groups of veterans--Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, Recognized Guerrilla Forces, and New Philippine Scouts. Widows and children of Filipino veterans would be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation just like any other veteran. Filipino veterans are dying at the rate of ten per day. Their average age is 85. There are an estimated 15,000 living WWII Filipino veterans. Currently, we have 96 cosponsors on this bill to treat our WWII heroes with dignity, but we need to act now.
It is a pleasure to celebrate the rich heritage of the Filipino community during this month of recognition.